Three times in history when the weather ruined everything

February 13, 2014

Soon after the debt ceiling was raised yesterday afternoon, Washington, D.C., cleared out before the impending weather emergency. Now the city — and most other arenas of politics on the East Coast — will be silent, or unable to talk about anything except for the accumulating snow. Here are three other times when weather put a damper on the political events of the day.


Rosemary Bennett walks home Feb. 11, 2014, during a winter storm in Greenville, Miss. (Bill Johnson/The Delta Democrat-Times via AP)

3. Hurricane Isaac delays the 2012 GOP convention.

2012 was not a good year for conventions. In Tampa, the Republican National Convention was delayed by a day, and Mitt Romney's coronation was pushed back to later in the week. In 2008, a hurricane also messed up convention plans for the GOP, and they were all the way in Minnesota. Hurricane Gustav, hitting the coast 1,000 miles away, was projected to hit St. Cloud as a tropical storm, although it ended up missing the convention by over 100 miles. President Bush canceled his trip to the convention, citing the storm, although it might have just been the perfect excuse.

In early September 2012, the Democratic National Convention also faced weather-related problems. President Obama was set to give his acceptance speech in the Bank of America Stadium — a venue with more than 70,000 seats and the North Carolina Panthers' home turf — but worries about potential rain sent the address indoors. The Obama campaign's press secretary said, “We're all disappointed, because we had 65,000 ticket holders plus 19,000 people who were on the waiting list, excited to hear him deliver his speech tomorrow night. This isn’t a call we wanted to make.”

Obama also had to change event plans last minute in 2010, when he had planned to make a Memorial Day address in Chicago. As The Washington Post reported:

It has been years since President Obama attended a rally like the one that took place Monday night at Andrews Air Force Base: sparsely attended, thrown together at the last minute, involving people who were not expecting to be there.

Yet that's what happened after a torrential downpour ruined well-laid presidential plans. Chased out of a Memorial Day service in Illinois by a fierce storm, Obama flew home to make remarks that he intended to deliver eight hours earlier. Instead of speaking in front of thousands, he addressed a small crowd of hastily summoned service members in a hangar.

George Bush once had to move a speech indoors because of inclement weather. He was promoting his "Clear Skies" initiative on Earth Day, and the sky did not oblige him by dressing to match. Instead of giving the speech at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, he instead settled for a Tennessee airport.


In this Sept. 14, 2012, photo, Republican presidential candidate  Mitt Romney campaigns in the rain at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

2. Is it raining out? Then you probably thought about not voting.

Brad Gomez, a researcher at Florida State University, thinks the 1960 and 2000 presidential elections might not have turned out like they did if the forecast had been different. The November day in 1960 when voters had been choosing between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon had been especially dry. If it had been raining, Nixon might have gotten 106 more electoral votes. If it hadn't rained in Florida in 2000, Al Gore would have likely won the state, according to Gomez's research.

Capture

Swedish researchers, however, found no negative impact on voter turnout from precipitation.

Reporters at the Louisville Courier-Journal in 1897 thought that moving Election Day in Kentucky from August to November killed the best political tradition in the state: the campaign barbecue. "The chance of having bad weather in the Fall is always very great." The dropoff made in pork-fueled revelry made Kentucky residents quite sad. "Barbecues as factors in Kentucky politics are on the wane. They are growing fewer in number every year, and the attendance is not what they used to be in the days when county and district political organizations were loose and of small value, and when every man was a politician and talked and voted (viva voce) as he pleased."

1. A deep chill — and a long tangent — kills William Henry Harrison. Maybe.

Exactly one month after his inauguration, the ninth president died from pneumonia, giving him the special distinction of having the shortest presidency in American history — a record he has kept to this day. Harrison also gave the longest inauguration speech in American history — 8,445 words — a record he has kept to this day. And it was the longest inaugural speech in history after his BFF Daniel Webster edited it, so you can only imagine how bad things could have been. Given the bad weather on his inauguration day, many think the two records may be connected, especially since he didn't wear a coat or a hat during the ceremony, and decided that riding on horseback to the event was a good idea. Many historians dispute this interpretation of his death, since his symptoms didn't appear until weeks after he was sworn in.

Other politicians have decided to brave bad weather for their events because the photos look amazing. We can only imagine what Harrison was thinking, because this was definitely not a reason he could cite for braving the festivities sans winter wear.

Must-reads:

"Obamacare beats a January enrollment projection" — Sarah Kliff, The Washington Post

"Congress approves increase in debt limit after dramatic vote" — Wesley Lowrey, The Washington Post

"Storm Wipes Out Power for Thousands in South" — Cameron McWhirter and Valerie Bauerlein, The Wall Street Journal

"Here's How You Know Hillary Is Running" — Julie Bykowicz, Bloomberg Businessweek

Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.
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